When Mikel Welch graduated from Morehouse College, he had no idea what he wanted to do. His mother’s advice was to find his passion in life by discovering what he’d be willing to do for free.

“At that time, that didn’t make sense to me,” Welch says. “I was broke and just out of college, there was nothing I’d do for free.”

Breaking in

He began work at Bloomingdales and found himself spending his lunch breaks in Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn, and something clicked. He knew that he should be working in interior design.

He apprenticed for a designer in Atlanta and began offering free home design on Craigslist to build his portfolio. Before long, he had moved to New York City to pursue his dream.

“New York really kicked my butt,” he recalls. “Things didn’t happen as quickly as I thought they would.”

Welch started working at The Container Store and it was there that he met his mentor, an interior designer whose clients resided in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

"'I’m from the school of ‘fake it till you make it. Treat your home office like a business—not an apartment.'"

He learned as much as he could and was later cast for “HGTV Design Star,” which led to an introduction to Steve Harvey’s business partner. Welch is now the resident design expert for the “Steve Harvey Show.”

Building the home office

For a long time, Welch worked out of his home, especially because in his business clients aren’t coming to his office.

“I’m from the school of ‘fake it till you make it,’” he says. “Treat your home office like a business—not an apartment.”

Welch has two main tips for home office design:

  • Don’t get boxed into corners with labels. For example, a small dining table can make a beautiful and affordable desk. “I would encourage people to step outside of the box,” he explains. “If it works, go ahead and put it in the space.”

  • Hide unsightly cords. Those with home workspaces, particularly in space-limited high-ceilinged urban apartments, should consider utilizing vertical space for storage.

“When you have a home office, you’re trying to make sure that your kid’s bowl of cheerios and your favorite cookbook don’t end up in your office,” he says. “Make sure you’re using as much wall space as possible and keep it in an organized fashion.”